Shenece Oretha: Route Words

Where are our voices aloud?


Art on the Underground is pleased to present a new sound artwork by London-based artist Shenece Oretha. The work has been developed over a period of collaboration and community engagement, working with the Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR), New Beacon Books, Rumi’s Cave and The RecordShop.

This new commission will be heard in London Underground spaces and in the communities near the stations through live performances, listening events and as an online audio. The amplification of voices, accessible through this range of listening experiences, invites space for celebration and reflection.

A live listening of the work plus poetry readings from collaborators involved was held on Thursday 10 August 11:30am-12:30pm at Finsbury Park Underground Station – City North Place exit/entrance.

The work titled Route Words: Where are our voices aloud? centres on Britain’s oldest Black bookshop and publisher, New Beacon Books, based in Finsbury Park. The work draws on New Beacon’s publications’ catalogue, showcasing writing that speaks to the importance of space and language, to a range of communities, their histories and collective futures. The sound piece weaves together extracts from the texts of Erna Brodber, Lorna Goodison, John la Rose, Kamau Brathwaite and Dennis Mitchell to demonstrate the collective force of  word and voice. The work seeks to mobilise and engage people through speaking to the cultural history of the collective voice within New Beacon Books legacy.

The artist’s relationship with New Beacon Books has been extended to conversations with social space Rumi’s Cave in Brent, which is inspired by the legacy of 13th Century poet Jalauddin Rumi, and recording studio The RecordShop in Wood Green, which works with young people. The collaboration between these groups is a joint connection to spaces where words and voice are central to their community formation, purpose and ongoing work. 

These spaces are actively supported by the CCSaR programme and have been invited to read from the score and contribute layers of story, poetry and sound to the work. The range of contributors highlights the voice’s role in advocacy and the importance of exchange and mutual support across these spaces in London. The contributing poets and musicians are Imruh Bakari, Margaret Busby, Greta Dapkute, Rakaya Fetuga, Sagal Gabay, Olivia Opara, Glaiza Padulla, Mary Otumahana aka WondRWomN, JAGO XYEN and Belinda Zhawi

The work will be shared through a poster campaign across the Tube network with a QR code allowing customers to listen to the audio and experience it on their journeys. In addition to this listening experience Finsbury Park Underground station, closest to New Beacon Books, will host a series of special performances from the collaborating poets, writers and musicians. These performances will allow travellers to experience the power of words and recitation to create a communal space. 

This work marks a new strand of collaborative community engagement and art commissioning for Art on the Underground. It is the start of a series of sound commissions developed through an engagement with the CCSaR programme and the communities around Underground stations to spotlight the work of organisations who face structural barriers to sustaining space in the capital and to create and share resonances from them across the city. 

The work was recorded at The Recordshop, Wood Green with Sound Engineer Keir McCabe.

Text extracts from New Beacon Books publications include:
Myal – Erna Brodber
History  of The Voice – Kamau Braithwaite
Eyelets of Truth Within Me – John La Rose
Dreadwalk – Dennis Scott
Heartease – Lorna Goodison

With additional support from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant

Shenece Oretha (b. Montserrat) is a multidisciplinary artist currently listening from London. Her practice is invested in the mobilising potential of sound enacted through her sound sculptures, multi-channel installations, poetry, workshops and print. Her solo shows include Ah So It Go, Ah No So It Go, Go So!, Cubitt Gallery, London (2022), Called to Respond, Cell Project Space, London, (2020), TESTING GROUNDS, Cafe OTO Project Space, London, (2019). Group exhibitions include, Brent Biennial, London (2022) SURVEY II, G39, Cardiff and Jerwood Arts, London (2021), Cinders, Sinuous and Supple, Les Urbaines (2019), Lausanne, Switzerland (2019) and PRAISE N PAY IT/ PULL UP, COME INTO THE RISE, South London Gallery, London, (2018).


The Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR) is the only GLA programme focussed on safeguarding existing spaces across London – protecting both their social and economic value. It provides expertise to help protect against threats to London’s cultural and community-led spaces, and directly support organisations to save spaces at risk.

The Mayor of London’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk programme (CCSaR) is working with Art on the Underground on an innovative new project, which will spotlight the grassroots organisations they have supported to produce audio installations that can be heard across London Underground stations.

New Beacon Books is a British publishing house, bookshop, and international book service that specialises in Black British, Caribbean, African, African-American and Asian literature. Founded in 1966 by John La Rose and Sarah White, it was the first Caribbean publishing house in England. New Beacon Books is widely recognised as having played an important role in the Caribbean Artists Movement, and in Black British culture more generally. The associated George Padmore Institute (GPI) is located on the upper floors of the same building where the bookshop resides at 76 Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, London.

The bookshop has been at the centre of many ground-breaking political and social projects, organisations and campaigns including the George Padmore and Albertina Sylvester Supplementary Schools, Caribbean Artists Movement (1966-1972), CECWA campaign against putting black children in Educationally Sub Normal (ESN) schools, The International Book Fair of Radial Black and Third World Books (1982-1995), the Black Parents Movement and Black Youth Movement, who campaigned against police racist brutality and fit-ups (1975- 1990s), the Alliance, the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (1981 ), the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners in Kenya (1980s),  George Padmore Institute GPI; archive of the struggle of people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent in Britain (1991) and European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (1990s).

Rumi’s Cave is an alternative community hub, arts and events venue in London, presenting a diverse range of cultural and social programmes to connect hearts, minds and communities. It is a non-defined social space open to all to reflect and share, inspired by the legacy of Jalauddin Rumi.

The Cave offers an eclectic mix of programs and events, ranging from poetry, storytelling and music nights, to afternoon tea, and a variety of talks, courses and creative workshops.

Rooted in a vibrant and dynamic community, the Cave has managed to bring together a diverse group of local and international guests, who share a passion for culture, creativity and learning. It also serves as a safe, non-judgemental space, where people from different backgrounds can come together and explore their cultures and identity. Rumi’s Cave is a space opened for all to provide much needed help and support to the very vulnerable members of our community.

The RecordShop is a social enterprise that aims to bridge the gap between young musicians living in inner-city London and lifestyle brands. We are an independent grassroots organisation that has built a network of 800+ registered users and partnered with global brands including O2 Telefonica, Samsung, Dr Martens, Tottenham Hotspurs, Sofar Sounds, Volunteering Matters and RedBull, helping them reach millennial audiences.

Our role is to provide a safe space for young people to nurture their personal and professional skills through our music programme and facilities. We are on a mission to educate, inform and inspire youths between ages 11 to 25 to connect with their community through music.


About the poets and musicians involved:

Imruh Bakari is a filmmaker, writer and creative industries consultant. He studied at Bradford College of Art, and is a graduate of the National Film & Television School, Beaconsfield. He also completed postgraduate studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He teaches on the BA (Hons) Film Studies and BA (Hons) Film Production programmes. From 1999-2004 he was Festival Director of Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), and is a founder/director of Tanzania Screenwriters Forum. He was a founder/director of Ceddo, the film and video production and training organization in London (1982-93). He is a former member (2012-15) of the Advisory Council of the Pan-African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI); and currently a member Tanzania Independent Producers Association (TAIPA), and the Editorial Board of the Journal of African Cinemas. His professional work includes a number of film and television credits, which include Riots and Rumours of Riots, Street Warriors, The Mark of the Hand, Blue Notes and Exiled Voices and African Tales. In 2013 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven, Belgium for his work in African Cinema.

His research interests are in Africa Cinema, Caribbean cinema and filmmaking.


Margaret Busby is an independent editor, writer, broadcaster and critic. Born in Ghana and educated in the UK, she became the first Black female publisher – and, at the time, the youngest publisher – in Britain when she co-founded Allison and Busby in 1967. Two years later she made history by publishing Sam Greenlee’s much-rejected novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which became required reading at the FBI Academy and is thought to have inspired the Blaxploitation genre in American cinema. Busby has contributed to many publications – including the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman and TLS. She has judged numerous literary prizes, including the Caine Prize, Commonwealth Book Prize, Orange Award for New Writers and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. A long-time cultural activist, Busby has worked continuously for diversity within the publishing industry and has been awarded the Royal Society of Literature’s prestigious Benson Medal and the Royal African Society’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. She was appointed OBE for services to literature and publishing in 2006.


Greta Dapkute. A drummer and bassist that’s learning and experimenting with production skills. Currently trying to put herself out there and gain inspiration as well as confidence. Participates in creative projects and makes use of creative spaces like The RecordShop.


Rakaya Fetuga is a writer, facilitator and events producer based in London. Her work joins conversations on overlapping identities, faith and culture as self-affirmation. Rakaya has been commissioned by the UN, BBC and Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as brands such as Microsoft, L’Occitane, Rimmel London, Instagram and Facebook. Rakaya’s poems have featured in anthologies by HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan and Flipped Eye. Rakaya has performed across the UK and Europe from Newcastle to the Netherlands and has shared her poetry at countless London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Speaker’s House, Westminster Abbey and Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall. An advocate for self-expression, Rakaya hosts Cave Open Mic at Rumi’s Cave, producing live events in her home city and as far as Cairo, Egypt. Rakaya also works with the Poetry Society to support young writers in schools to nurture their talent. Rakaya has an MA in Fiction Writing from Royal Holloway and is working on her first novel.


Olivia Opara. From journalistic writing to poetry/spoken word, Olivia believes writing not only acts as a positive outlet but also enables her to better understand her passions, her values and her voice. Having grown up in a generation that is more outspoken, more attentive and socially aware, she has found that through finding and strengthening her voice, through her creativity, this has allowed her to not only share her own story but the stories of others. Her words not only have meaning but provoke thought and emotion for words to have power.


Mary Otumahana aka WondRWomN is a North London lyricist that has been rapping since her teens, WondRWomN was heavily influenced by the likes of 2Pac and Eminem growing up. She loves hip hop beats and uses words to deliver thought-provoking themes and captivate crowds. As well as being a musician, WondRWomN is the founder of the youth recording studio and artist development programme, The RecordShop. WondRWomN has won several awards for her community endeavours and is also the face of the Tottenham Hotspurs new kit campaign.


Glaiza Padulla is Project Manager at Rumi’s Cave.


JAGO XYEN. Growing up in South East London, JAGO XYEN has always channeled a creative and philosophical mindset. Having a burning desire to perform and write rhymes from a young age, it’s no surprise he would venture into the world of music. JAGO XYEN wears his influences on his sleeve, Being inspired by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and Nas. With this palette, he pushes the boundaries of Hip Hop, channeling a variety of insane flows, intricate rhyme schemes and unique wordplay. JAGO XYEN has been performing live consistently for the last couple of years, with notable performances being held at The South Facing Festival in Crystal Palace, The Lafayette and a vast number of venues across the UK from London to Brighton. He continues to convey a conscious message of peace and empowerment within his music, whilst delivering awe-inducing performances to a wide range of audiences.


Belinda Zhawi (b. Zimbabwe) is a literary & sound artist based in London, author of Small Inheritances (ignitionpress, 2018), & experiments with sound/text performance as MA.MOYO. Her literary & sound works have been featured on various platforms including The White Review, Vogue, NTS, Boiler Room & BBC Radio. She’s held residencies with Triangle-Asterides, France; Cove Park, Scotland; Serpentine Galleries and ICA London. She is currently a Brixton House Associate Artist 2022 – 24. Belinda’s the co-founder of literary arts platform, BORN::FREE

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